SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A Savannah College of Art and Design student says she was speaking to her friends in Spanish over the weekend at a local McDonald’s when a stranger started making racist comments.
The man, WSAV learned, was a former employee of a Georgia sheriff’s office. He was fired Wednesday morning.
Sheriff John Wilcher with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia said he wouldn’t tolerate any behavior of that nature by anyone within his department. The sheriff, however, could not yet confirm the man’s name or position.
The video was posted to Twitter on Saturday night. The incident shown involves SCAD sophomore Cristina Riofrio and the former CCSO worker at the McDonald’s on the corner of West Broughton and Jefferson streets.
Riofrio captured the altercation on video and tweeted it. It quickly went viral.
“I wish I could have said a lot of things, but at that time I was really mad and I couldn’t even speak,” said Riofrio.
In the video, the man can be heard talking about how he has been living in the United States for years and suggests that Riofrio immigrated to the country “on a f—— boat.”
The 19-year-old says she was born in California and her parents are from Ecuador.
“Actually, one of my friends cried at that moment. I felt really bad for her,” said Riofrio.”But, I didn’t want him to see us cry, see us as weak, acting weak because we are not.”
Riofrio recorded and posted the video to Twitter; it has over 2 million views and thousands of replies. Elizabeth Ronson tweeted: “I’m so sorry you went through this, I’m so sorry so many Spanish speakers go through this.”
“Some people tweeted like ‘You shouldn’t be speaking Spanish it’s annoying to hear. I’m Mexican and I don’t do that,'” said Riofrio. “You shouldn’t do that you should be proud of where you come from.”
The altercation eventually got the attention of other customers and employees, and at the end of the viral video, a McDonald’s employee is heard asking the man to leave.
“We aren’t going to have all that,” an employee said in the video.
“A lot of people say, ‘Are you okay, are you afraid?’ But, I am not, actually,” Riofrio said. “I am never going to stop speaking Spanish in front of white people. Like, I feel proud of where I am come from.”
The original video posted by Riofrio has over 14,000 retweets, more than 46,600 likes and 931 replies from other users as of 1 p.m. on Wednesday. It has been re-posted by multiple other Twitter users.
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